Bill To Restore Student Loans To Minor Drug Offenders Introduced In Congress

Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) recently introduced legislation to restore student loan eligibility for marijuana offenders. House Bill 1053 seeks to repeal provisions adopted by Congress in the Higher Education Act of 1998 that deny financial assistance to any college student convicted of a drug offense, including the simple possession of marijuana.

NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. praised Frank’s bill and criticized Congress’ mandatory ban on student aid to marijuana offenders. “While no one wants to encourage drug use, neither should we take away an individual’s opportunity to obtain an education for such a minor offense,” he said. “Congress’ denial of student aid to minor drug offenders is a needlessly harsh penalty that will force many low-income students to drop out of college. It is further inappropriate because no other criminal offense disqualifies college students from receiving student loans.”

The U.S. Department of Education opposes the provisions denying student aid to drug offenders, and notes that judges already have the power to strip eligibility to student aid if they feel that an individual case warrants such action.

Representative Frank said it was “unreasonable” for Congress to “impose an excessively rigid prohibition on an individual’s ability to receive federal aid,” particularly in cases “where individuals are convicted of minor drug offenses and are trying to get their lives back together through education.”

For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Adam Smith of the Drug Reform Coordination Network @ (202) 293-8340. Interested parties may fax their Congressman a letter supporting H.R. 1053 from NORML’s website at: norml.org.